National Labs and Water Power

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Stemming from immense government investment in scientific research during World War II, the Energy Department's national laboratories have served as the leading institutions for scientific innovation in the United States for more than seventy years. Today, 17 national laboratories address large-scale, complex research and development challenges with a multidisciplinary approach that translates basic science to innovation.

The Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) funds several national labs to conduct early-stage research to accelerate innovative water power technologies. The national labs also work with industry, academia, and many other stakeholders to solve scientific challenges while providing test facilities, sophisticated instrumentation, and deep expertise. 

Learn About All the National Labs | National Lab Map | Water Power Projects Map

How to Work with the National Labs

The Energy Department’s national labs have strong partnerships with industry, government, academia, small businesses, international, and nonprofits to advance the research and development of U.S. water power. Whether an organization wants to partner with a lab to solve a specific problem, access unique testing facilities and instrumentation, or learn more about research and development opportunities available, more information about partnerships can be found on each lab’s partnering, technology transfer, or commercialization web pages.

For more information on our current portfolio of work, accomplishments, priorities and how you can work with our labs, view our Stakeholder Webinars.

National Laboratories with Water Power Expertise

Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois

Argonne National Laboratory

Lemont, Illinois

Multidisciplinary teams of scientists and engineers at Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne) are advancing basic and applied energy science, focusing their research and development on a broad portfolio of sustainable and clean energy technologies. 

In water power, Argonne scientists are teaming up with research and industry partners to study next-generation conventional and pumped storage hydropower technologies and develop new ways to optimize and increase the efficiency of water use.

Major water power research areas include:

  • Environmental analysis and assessments of hydro projects and river basins
  • Power systems modeling, integration, and valuation analysis
  • Optimization of operations of hydro reservoirs and cascades
  • Power system, plant, and generating unit performance optimization
  • Simulation and analysis of electricity markets

Read about Argonne’s efforts to advance the state of the art in the valuation of pumped storage hydropower.

View of the Idaho National Laboratory.

Idaho National Laboratory

Idaho Falls, Idaho

While Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is the nation’s leading center for nuclear energy research and development, INL applies a considerable depth of expertise in electrical power generation and distribution systems to challenges associated with renewable energy development, including grid development, mechanical design, reservoir assessment and monitoring, and advanced control systems.​

Major water power research areas include:

  • Dynamic system modeling and analysis
  • Technologies and resource assessments
  • Grid value analysis
  • Advanced control systems
  • System integration.

Review a presentation that details INL’s work in developing a river-based hydropower system that integrates energy storage.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Golden, Colorado

For more than 40 years, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has advanced the science and engineering of energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, and renewable power technologies.

NREL supports the responsible deployment of hydropower through research in grid optimization, regulatory roadmapping, and economic analysis. NREL also supports the marine energy industry by leveraging vast experience gained in wind and water power research and development, along with established testing capabilities and facilities. Major water power research areas include:

  • Laboratory and field technology validation and optimization
  • Power system design and market value analysis
  • Turbine and generator electrical and mechanical system design
  • Industry workforce and educational development
  • Market barrier mitigation research, analysis, and outreach.

Read about NREL’s work to developing an interactive hydropower regulatory roadmap toolkit for hydropower and pumped storage development projects.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Oak Ridge, Tennessee

As the largest US Department of Energy (DOE) open science laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory's (ORNL's) mission is to deliver scientific discoveries and technical breakthroughs that will accelerate the development and deployment of solutions in clean energy and global security while creating economic opportunities for the nation.

In water power, ORNL research focuses on cost reduction and performance improvement to increase power generation at existing hydropower facilities and accelerate sustainable implementation of new facilities. These research efforts leverage key ORNL strengths in data analytics, high-performance computing, materials synthesis and characterization, environmental science, and advanced manufacturing. Focus areas include the following.

  • Component and facility technology, simulation, and design optimization
  • Environmental science and assessment
  • Resource and market assessment
  • Materials science and advanced manufacturing
  • Economic analyses and modeling

Learn about ORNL's work to define design parameters for a new class of modular hydropower technology that reduces cost and has a smaller physical and environmental footprint.

Aerial view of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Richland, Washington

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has taken on some of the world’s greatest science and technology challenges since 1965. With more than 4,400 scientists, engineers and professionals on staff, PNNL has discovered innovative tools and technologies for science, energy, the environment, and national security. In water power, researchers are developing more efficient and sustainable systems to harness energy from water.

In support of the DOE Water Power Technologies Office and organizations such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration, PNNL aims to deliver low-cost power and resiliency to the nation’s power grid.

Major water power research areas include:

  • Cybersecurity and digitalization
  • Environmental performance
  • Marine energy resource characterization
  • Materials science
  • Power grid integration
  • Powering the blue economy
  • Water and hydropower planning

Read the WPTO’s Powering the Blue Economy report, which was developed, in part, by researchers at PNNL.

Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sandia National Laboratories

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Keeping the U.S. nuclear stockpile safe, secure, and effective is a major focus of Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia), but the labs also support a secure energy mix by enabling an uninterrupted and enduring supply of energy from domestic sources, while assuring the reliability and resiliency of energy infrastructure.

In water power, Sandia developed tools for optimizing the performance of Wave Energy Converters (WEC) with minimal environmental impact and worked to improve the power performance and reliability of multiple marine energy technologies.

Major water power research areas include:

  • Controls development
  • High-fidelity modeling
  • System design and testing
  • Resource characterization
  • Environmental modeling and cost analysis.

Learn about Sandia’s work in Advanced Dynamics and Controls that markedly increase the performance of Wave Energy Converters and how these technological advancements help partners in industry, academia and beyond.